Balanced Sharpshooters?

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by ShatteredSkies, Jun 19, 2015.

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  1. So, I'm going to run into a problem in a roleplay here soon. My principal character is a designated marksman, (kind of like a sniper, but he works closer) preferring to engage targets from medium range, from concealment, and entirely without warning. Such are the keys to success on the battlefield. This works well in:
    A) Ambshing and eliminating NPCs.
    B) Keeping my character alive
    C) Protecting the character's team

    Most of the team focuses more on close quarters combat

    Now, a player-controlled villain is going to come into play here soon, and I'm already planning for how to deal with them. The villain is also a close-quarters type, and a tier above my teammates. Needless to say, they will get carved up. My plan? While the villain is occupied with the team, or gloating after their defeat, the marksman aligns his sights, and pulls the trigger.

    If it was an NPC, I would have no qualms about pulling the trigger. But somebody's character? Against all my tactical learnings, I want to give them a fighting chance. Do I have my character wait and grumble about all the movement screwing up his shot, or come in running from something else?

    And then for general discussion: How does one play a sharpshooter and not be overpowered?
  2. For the specific example, I'm assuming that this is a game where there's no objective method (such as dice) to determine success or failure of an action. If I'm right, and it's just players and/or the GM deciding on how things turn out, then you can fabricate a bunch of reasons for why you don't just crack this bad guy in the dome with a couple bullets to put him down. No safe shot is a decent reason, because of course you wouldn't want to kill one of your allies accidentally. Fabricating some other issue to distract you could also work. Personally, I'd just take the shot and kill the sucker, because a villain is a villain no matter who's controlling it and if I'm playing a hero then they need to die, but I'm ruthless and don't mind player character deaths.

    Generally speaking, it's kind of awkward to try to balance a lot of things in freeform roleplaying. Any fight lacking objective success determination will come down to all relevant parties simply agreeing that you killed the opponent or disagreeing and saying it's still alive. It's extremely subjective, so balance is hard to find even for simpler archetypes like a plain melee fighter. For a sharpshooter, to maintain balance you need to have extremely weak melee capabilities in order to make up for your devastating strength at range, and ideally they should be not spectacular at stealth either. Essentially, if anyone gets up in your face then your sharpshooter should be screwed unless they get immediate assistance from a melee fighter buddy. If you have both powerful ranged kill power AND melee survivability then there's no reasonable way for enemies to work against you outside of an ambush, and that's pretty overpowered.
  3. There's quite a number of things you could do to not have the player villain get killed by the designated marksman. I'm not sure if you've ever handled a rifle before, but believe you me, it'll make you appreciate how difficult it is for a sniper to do their job.

    Since it's a combat scenario, things are probably moving fast, especially if this character is a close-quarters assaulting type, that would mean that they're moving closer to friendly lines, likely really proficient at using cover, and making the most of their agility. This would make it not only hard to lead the target, let alone keep their eyes on them (unless you're far away, it's really easy to move out of a scope's field of few), but the zero on the rifle would be effected. Let's say your designated marksman had their sight set out to 300 meters (not an unreasonable distance to expect from a designated marksman, whose job is to move with the squad and extend their reach, which in combat scenarios is usually about 100-200 meters), if a target moved closer, say closing about 50 meters to 250 meters from 300, there's a pretty big chance that even if you kept the rifle perfectly steady and weren't trying to keep ahead, your shot would go right over his head, even if the crosshairs were dead between the eyes.

    Keep in mind, the further out you shoot requires fine adjustment to your sight. Think of it this way, getting a sight zeroed at 100 meters means that your elevation (up and down) and windage (left and right) on your scope and the ballistic trajectory of your shot are all calibrated to intersect at the same point. When you aim at another distance or elevation, that zero doesn't apply, and your bullet won't land where they're calibrated. That's why good rifle scopes have markings for 50 or 100 meter increments to adjust for elevation, and usually markings for left and right to ballpark where to aim if you're aiming for a walking or running target. This is part of why sniping is hugely on the fly mathematics more so than just lining up the crosshairs and pulling the trigger. Something as simple as misjudging elevation or distance by a few meters can be enough to miss, and just because your sights are set properly at the range doesn't mean they will be spot on for field conditions, especially if it's constantly changing. Video games really makes shooting easy and takes away a lot of the reality of shooting, which is probably a good thing; nobody would want to play a game where you had to make constant adjustments to your sight.

    To give you an idea how how sensitive it can be, check out this picture (and I apologize for the crap quality, it's hard to get a picture of a reflex sight with my camera)

    Show Spoiler

    If you can make it out, that X is the reticle for my reflex sight, which is zeroed so at 50 meters, I can get a bullseye aiming for the dead middle of the X, and I can do the same for 100 meters aiming between the bottom points of the X. At that distance, trying to aim dead center at 100 meters will actually miss the target entirely. Interestingly, because the ballistic properties of a .223 round, I can aim for the center of the X at 250m and hit bullseyes. As you can tell, it's kind of a tricky thing. If you're able, give Sniper Elite a try on the hardest difficulty, and you can kind of get an idea of how all sorts of factors play on ballistics. If your aim is even slightly off, or you misjudge where your shot is going to land, you will miss.

    Zeroing and calibration aside, all sorts of factors can knock a shoot off target. Is the the shooter breathing heavy, were they suppressed or running recently? Did a sudden wind kick up that can throw a shot off? Does the shooter have a clear line of sight, or are there obstructions? Is there a threat of a counter-sniper? What caliber of a rifle are they shooting? Is it a powerful enough round to pierce armour at a far distance? More or less, there's more factors going against the shooter than the target, especially if they're in a combat situation. It's one thing if he's standing around or walking a patrol at a fixed distance, but from the sounds of things, you're opening up an attack in this scenario. Trust me, the only reason people treat snipers as over-powered in roleplaying is because they probably aren't portraying it realistically.

    Hope this helps!
  4. @Dervish: I am well aware of these factors, I'm an avid shooter and marksman, so I knew all of that already. But hopefully someone who isn't such can learn something from it. Balistics are fun, though maddening at times.

    I know all the things I can do, and just how powerful my character is as a DM, but I'm not quite sure others would see that. They would see me waiting a safe distance back, breathing, waiting, then killing the bad guy with one shot while their characters have been getting their asses handed to them. Can't you just hear the cries of godmodding and power play?

    Just some particulars, my character's weapon is chambered in 7.62 NATO and the engagement will likely be in a closed enviorment at a range of 150 meters or less. The people I'm playing with/against aren't the most tactically aware, so the chances cover will be utilized are slim. Even though the game is labeled 'Anime Physics' I'm still keeping a respect for physics, because I love realism and real physics.

    Oh, and Sniper Elite on the hardest difficulty is something I do not want to talk about.
  5. From my understanding with a designated marksman, they pretty much keep with the squad and only branch off when ordered to by the squad leader. In the scenario you gave, I think it would go over a bit better if your character communicated with the squad and made it pretty well known what his intentions are. Of course, if shit's hitting the fan, you might always have the luxury of mobility. Sometimes you have to dig in and make a stand, because you're caught in a situation where you can't plan ahead. It's like in Saving Private Ryan, most of the time, the squad marksman only ran off to do his thing when Captain Miller ordered him to.

    One thing you might want to consider trying is in the OOC to do some tactics workshops between posts, where you pose a hypothetical situation and ask how they'd handle it, and then explaining how things would likely go down. It could be a fun way to pass time between posts, and it could prove to be pretty educational for players who may not be tactically minded.

    The other mean solution would be to play out the scenario straight and punish characters in game for terrible mistakes. ;D

    I love me some Sniper Elite. It took me 3 levels to realize you can hold down the E button to slow down time and show where your bullet would hit. That takes all the fun out of it!
  6. @Dervish: I would love to, but I'm the only one on the team with a comm setup. Pretty sure it's going to be a 'holy shit, they're evil, we've got to stop them' scenario. The team won't know what he is or what he's doing, but they'll be damn glad he did so. The sniper/DM in Saving Private Ryan was awesome, I loved his character. But typically DMs act directly under orders by the team leader or ranking member, though they are allowed to show initive and move independently if the situation demands.

    Pretty sure I'm going to be the arse who plays it straight, then I'll give them the workshop. Have them learn from their mistakes.

    I only did that to grind for acheivements. I love it too, because there aren't that many actually good simulators out there like it. That and Arma are my favorites.
    #6 ShatteredSkies, Jun 30, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2015
  7. Communication is key, as are non-lethal wounds.
    • Talk to whoever controls the villain if this is an option. Let them know that you've got a plan, and that their villain might die. If you hammer things out in advance, both players can walk away satisfied having cleverly planned ahead.
    • Have your character screw the pooch or be forced to take the shot under non-ideal circumstances, so that instead of getting an instant-kill shot, you get a wounding hit instead. This way, the villain is given time to recoil, without walking away scratch-free. This can also pan out into future writing opportunities: A scarred villain who remembers the hero who hurt him has far more of a personal vendetta to score than generic and replaceable villain-of-the-week types.
    • Get the GM to mediate. The GM's word is law, ultimately. If you keep your GM in the loop, they can step in to prevent trouble from arising as a result of hurt feelings. (Unless they're completely inept at their job, at which point the RP is on very shakey grounds already.)
    Depends largely on setting, and the environment they're combating in.
    • Era: A medieval sharpshooter is very different from a modern or sci-fi sharpshooter, for obvious reason.
    • Magic/Pseudo-Tech: If your setting contains either custom tech or magic, you can create innumerable ways to stop a sharpshooter.
    • Body armour: Dragon Skin anyone?
    • Not all hits are critical: Remember the second point from above? Not every single shot will always land exactly as planned. Sometimes a sharpshooter can miss, or hit a target but not kill them instantly. This point is rendered somewhat irrelevant by large enough calibres (you hit someone anywhere with an anti-tank rifle and all that will be left behind is a fine red mist and giblets for the crows), but one would imagine that recoil and unexpected circumstances can cause missed shots.
    • Environment: Think about the combat environment. If we're talking an open field with no suitable cover? Then the sharpshooter is God. If we're talking short, tight corridor shooting? The sharpshooter is likely lugging around an oversized weapon to turn corners with and will end up losing most reaction-fire draws to more suitably trained room clearing men. If the sharpshooter is in an environment packed dense with several entrances and exists, plenty of cover, et cetera (ex: city environment)? The sharpshooter could be snuck up on and slain, the sharpshooter could watch smoke grenades be used that will obscure his vision of targets passing through it from one building to another, the sharpshooter could be pinned down by enemy fire which allows some enemies to cross the street to kill him, et cetera.
    Sharpshooters aren't overpowered, they're just one part of a fully functioning fighting force. If we're talking modern military, that includes air support (BRRRRRRRRRRTTTT), tanks, military intelligence, engineers (because who else disarms explosives this retardedly?), and so on.

    For every weapon, there's a counter. For every discipline, a flaw. For every strategy, an exploitation. Sharpshooters can fuck shit up in pinpoint ways, but don't ask them to take out heavy support like tanks, or face off entire squads alone, because they can and will probably lose. :ferret:
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